Workplace Ergonomics – Change Can Prevent Injuries

Did you know that 33% of all non-fatal workplace injuries fall into the category of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD’s). MSD’s affect the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons. Workers in many different industries and occupations can be exposed to risk factors at work, such as lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body postures and performing the same or similar tasks repetitively. These injuries require an average range of 11-16 days away from work to recover.

Examples of Musculoskeletal Disorders

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Tendonitis
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Epicondylitis/tennis elbow
  • Trigger finger
  • Muscle strains
  • Neck and low back injuries


As I began to research this article, I looked at the ergonomics of my office space. I realized that it needed some work. I adjusted the height, lumbar support, tilt and arm height of my office chair. I found I was sitting forward in the chair which offered no support. I moved the keyboard and mouse closer to avoid leaning forward. I also moved the monitor slightly forward to reduce squinting and craning my neck. These simple changes made a big difference in my comfort and sitting duration.

Standing desks are also very popular. Health experts believe that too much sitting is as unhealthy as smoking. Standing can improve conditions like heart disease, obesity, back pain and diabetes. Studies have also shown that standing desks have a positive influence on overall mood and well-being.

Here are some easy things you can do to reduce the chances of an MSD:

  • Take your hands off the keyboard for a 20 second break every 10 minutes
  • Get up from your desk for 2-5 minutes every hour
  • Rotate your neck side to side
  • Do shoulder circles and shrugs
  • Sit up straight and lift your arms above your head and stretch
  • Drop your arms and hands to your sides. Gently shake them for a few seconds.
  • With your elbows on desk, gently use left hand to bend right hand back toward forearm. Hold for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat on other side.
  • Spread your fingers as far apart as possible, hold, then clench fists, then release.
  • Circle foot slowly from the ankle, then reverse.


Fitting the task to the person means adjusting the way in which work is done, modifying equipment, job design and layout and adjusting for the physical capabilities of workers so that work does not cause musculoskeletal disorders. What changes have you made to prevent work-related MSD’s?


Contributed by: Amy Noel